Dem Fund-Raiser Hsia Indicted

Democratic fund-raiser Maria Hsia, already charged with disguising illegal campaign contributions to President Clinton's re-election, was indicted Tuesday on federal income tax charges.

Hsia, who also is an immigration consultant, was charged by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles with failing to file a 1994 income tax return, filing false 1995 and 1996 income tax returns that underreported her taxable income, and helping file a false 1995 gross receipts of her immigration consulting business, Hsia & Associates, Inc., in Arcadia, Calif., on its corporate tax return.

"These charges are false, and it will be clear they are false," said Nancy Luque, Hsia's attorney.

The Justice Department announced the indictment here and said its campaign finance task force would prosecute both the tax and contributions cases.

A 47-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen born in Taiwan, Hsia has been free on $50,000 bond awaiting trial here on the campaign finance charges that were filed last February. She has been barred from traveling outside the United States while awaiting the Washington trial, now set to begin Aug. 31.

After former Little Rock, Ark., restaurateur Charlie Trie, Hsia was the second figure charged by Justice's campaign finance task force, which also investigated Tuesday's tax allegations along with the Internal Revenue Service.

"This is a squeeze play," Luque said, noting the campaign finance task force has been examining the tax allegations for some time, but waited until shortly before the beginning of the Washington trial to file charges. "They are trying to force her to plead guilty. That will never happen."

In February, a grand jury here charged Hsia with disguising $65,000 in illegal campaign contributions by a California Buddhist temple to the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign and other politicians between 1993 and 1996.

The Hsi Lai Temple, located in the Los Angeles suburb of Hacienda Heights, Calif., was named as an unindicted co-conspirator.

Some political observers viewed that indictment as a potential problem for Vice President Al Gore and his ambition to seek the presidency in 2000.

Gore was not charged in the case, but the indictment mentioned three fund-raisers he attended and two Clinton attended for which the grand jury charged Hsia raised disguised contributions.

Three temple nuns told a Senate committee last fall the temple illegally reimbursed donors after an April 1996 fund-raiser Gore attended. The nuns testified the temple destroyed or altered records to avoid embarrassment.

The charge of failing to file a 1994 federal income tax return, although required to do so, carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Each of the three charges involving false returns carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Hsia also could face a civil assessment by the Internal Revenue Service fotax due, interest and penalties, the Justice Department noted.

By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN